IBM System z mainframe in the cloud

Now, mainframes running COBOL can go to cloud, mobile platforms

IBM has recently announced new software to help organizations extend crucial business and government applications running on System z mainframes to Web, cloud and mobile environments. The IBM Enterprise COBOL for z/OS compiler lets developers maximize hardware and improve application performance by as much as 10 to 20 percent, the company said in its announcement.

Created more than 50 years ago — based largely on the work of Navy computing pioneer Grace Hopper — COBOL is still running critical applications in government, finance, travel and insurance. Some estimate that between 60 and 80 percent of all business transactions are still done in COBOL.

And even though mobile and Web technologies might be more attractive to developers and new businesses, “the reality is that most organizations that have been around for more than 30 years still run their core business processes using systems that were written in COBOL,” Forrester’s Kurt Bittner wrote in a recent blog post.  And those organizations are looking for anything that makes these apps easier to evolve and extend, Bittner added.

Moving COBOL applications to the cloud offers many benefits for agencies, including location independence, which is critical as the workforce becomes increasingly mobile and open data and data sharing increases.

With Enterprise COBOL for z/OS, “IBM is helping companies reduce operating costs and processing time associated with these applications while delivering new capabilities to take advantage of cloud, Web and mobile devices," said Kevin Stoodley, Rational chief technology officer and IBM Fellow.

The new software helps deliver innovative solutions and reduce costs by:

  • Providing support for Java 7, new UTF-8 built-ins, debugging enhancements and support for unbounded tables and groups.
  • Supporting a new level of z/OS System Management Facilities tracking, which allows users who implement sub-capacity tracking to reduce their administrative overhead.
  • Improving control over XML documents with the z/OS XML parser, allowing parsing workload to be off loaded to specialty engines to reduce operating costs.

IBM Enterprise COBOL for z/OS v5.1 compiler works with the latest versions of IBM Customer Information Control System, Information Management System and DB2 software. It is expected to be available later this quarter.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at or @sjaymiller.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Feb 10, 2014 Cyrus Montakab

My company ( specializes in translating COBOL applications to Java. Recently a prospect asked if it was possible to access the java version of their mainframe application from mobile phones. The answer was yes off-course. Since the CICS BMS, or COBOL Display screens are translated to HTML, they it can be accessed from any cell-phone with a good browser - although the screens will be a bit on the small side. The new system however does new JSP or ASP screens to be simply plugged in without having to alter a single like of the business logic. This would allow a new screen to be designed specifically for cell phones. Of course no one will expect the Data-Entry department to use the new cell-phone centric pages for their work. But if the cell phone centric site is merely another interface to the existing migrated application, well, it could be utilized as a public facing ecommerce site. For example, if the original application is related to Personal-Tax, a user may login using his cell-phone, name and id fields to be auto populated (and made invisible to save on screen real-estate), certain features disabled (e.g. search for other users, ….) and then the user allowed to enter his own data. I know there will be area’s which will require careful consideration (e.g. security), but the ability to open-up the existing applications to a wider public must be enticing!

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